Earlier this week I commented on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel’s total tone deafness related to his Department of Justice investigation into the shooting death of Sylville Smith at the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department. I am not the only one feeling this way…witness today’s article by Bruce Murphy over at Urban Milwaukee:

Then there’s the fact the state investigation is using retired Milwaukee police officers in the Smith probe. The AG told the media he doesn’t see a conflict in using MPD officers: “Milwaukee PD has about 2,000 sworn officers as I understand. The likelihood that there would be some relationship between a particular patrol officer, who’s going to be much younger than an experienced detective… is small. And if there is any relationship at all, that officer, that investigator would not be permitted to have any role in the investigation.”

This is not the first time former Milwaukee officers were used in such a state investigation. They were also used in the 2014 investigation of Milwaukee officer Christopher Manney who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park.

At the time, Bies [Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay)] told Fox 6 he trusted the state agents to be impartial, but thought their ties to the Milwaukee department could make the public suspicious: “I would’ve thought that whoever made those assignments maybe would’ve considered those issues and… made a better decision and put a different investigator on.”

In short, perception matters. As it turned out, many in Milwaukee have never accepted the decision that determined Manney wasn’t criminally culpable and there have been periodic protests since then. But the stakes are far higher in the Smith killing, which touched off a near-riot. Whatever the decision that’s made, it’s critical that it looks as fair as possible, with no perception of favorable treatment.

But how “independent” does the investigation look when you have Milwaukee officers investigating a fellow member of the force? Under the circumstances, you have have to ask why Schimel hasn’t simply looked for other retired officers — whether from the Madison, Racine or any other city — to conduct the Smith probe.

But Mr. Murphy goes me one better…and it’s because they have been spending a lot of time following political contributions around the state. But if a perception of bias by the former MPD officers doing the investigation doesn’t bother AG Schimel, why would this:

But questions have arisen about Schimel’s links to Milwaukee police. For starters, he has been a frequent recipient of campaign donations from the Milwaukee Police Association. The police union gave him five donations of $500 between May 2014 and October 2015, as Gretchen Schuldt has reported for Wisconsin Justice Initiative.

What can possibly go wrong here?

3 Responses to Bruce Murphy’s Take On AG Schimel’s Hearing Loss:

  1. BofCudahy says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with them here. Show actual links to who they are investigating and I’d agree. I really dislike this movement has turned into what seems like total disrespect for the police. An armed criminal being treated as a martyr is heinous. All lives matter and of course it’s tragic Sylville Smith died, but if an armed suspect refuses to stand down and gets shot I find no one to blame but themselves.

    Obviously impartial investigations are important, but in this case I liken this to Donald Trump suggesting judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t be impartial.

    • Ed Heinzelman says:

      I understand your initial points but until the investigation is complete…and published…we only have the MPD’s side of the story.

      But no, this isn’t like Trump calling out Judge Curiel…this is like Donald Trump’s son being the judge on Donald Trumps case.

      • BofCudahy says:

        I’m trying to think of a better comparison because neither of ours is totally appropriate, I concede.

        Perhaps a better comparison would be members of the House of Representatives investigating members of the House. Or if we go the family route, Donald Trump’s third cousin investigating him.

        The situation stinks either way. I just think it’s ridiculous police have to fear riots if they so much as defend themselves or shoot at someone who is armed. I don’t think any one side is 100% in the right here, at least when speaking of the more extreme elements of either side of the issue.

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